Local and state health officials announced Thursday that infectious rates of the coronavirus continue to soar in Texas.
The same day, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order clearing up the collective response to a recent surge in positive cases and banning any mask mandates across the state.
Executive Order GA-38 combines several existing COVID-19 executive orders to promote statewide uniformity and certainty in the state’s COVID-19 response, Abbott said in a Thursday news release.
“The new executive order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” the governor said. “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities.”
Vaccines remain in abundant supply, Abbott said. They are the most effective defense against the virus, he said.
And, “they will always remain voluntary — never forced — in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center and the San Antonio region continue to experience surges in COVID-19 cases, GRMC Public Information Officer Liz McCown said. The hospital saw a steady increase in admissions over a two-week period, she said.
As of Thursday, 23 COVID-19 patients were being treated at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center on top of other patients who did not have the virus, McCown said.
The hospital was going through a seven-day moving average of 16 COVID hospitalizations per day along with a seven-day moving average of 4 new coronavirus admissions per day, she said.
Of the patients hospitalized locally with the disease, McCown said 85% were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
“Following CDC guidelines, GRMC considers people who are two weeks out from completion of second doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one does of the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine to be ‘fully vaccinated,’” she said.
About a week earlier, GRMC was caring for about 17 COVID-19 patients and seven-day moving averages were 11 hospitalizations and three new admissions per day, McCown said then.
At that time, hospital leaders changed visitor policies restricting visitors for ICU and COVID patients and limiting to only one visitor for other patients.
McCown provided statewide numbers from Texas’ Department of State Health Services showing that cases and hospitalizations continued their rapid ascent statewide due to the delta variant of the disease.
State health officials reported 10,086 new confirmed cases in Texas, 59 newly-reported fatalities and 5,292 COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state.
In his executive order, Abbott strongly encouraged eligible Texans to receive vaccination. He strongly encouraged Texans to “consistently follow good hygiene, social-distancing, and other mitigation practices,” according to the order.
“This executive order shall supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts services allowed by this executive order or allows gatherings restricted by this executive order,” the order reads.
Implementation of any face-covering requirement by a local governmental entity or official constitutes a “failure to comply with” the order, the order reads. Such a failure to comply is subject to a fine up to $1,000, it reads.